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May 24, 2010

Ten freshmen who must contribute right away

Kentucky (No. 2) and North Carolina (No. 4) are bringing in some of the most accomplished freshman classes in the nation.

UK needs its freshmen to produce right away because of the mass exodus of talent from Lexington to the NBA. UNC needs its freshmen to produce immediately because no one who wears Carolina blue wants to suffer through another mediocre season. That means players such as Enes Kanter, Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb at Kentucky and Harrison Barnes, Reggie Bullock and Kendall Marshall at North Carolina will be under the microscope next season.

But there will be numerous other freshmen who also must step in and produce if their teams are to reach their potential. Here's a look at 10 of those guys, listed alphabetically by school, who can be expected to be immediate contributors -- or, rather, guys who must be immediate contributors.

Auburn: F Luke Cothron. Signing Cothron was a coup for new Auburn coach Tony Barbee, who made an immediate splash on the recruiting trail. It was a much-needed splash for an Auburn program that lacked talent under previous coach Jeff Lebo. Cothron is a four-star recruit from Red Springs (N.C.) Flora McDonald Academy who is the No. 45 recruit in the class nationally. Cothron can run all day, and despite a lack of bulk (he is 6 feet 8 and weighs 210 pounds), he is an effective low-post scorer; he also can hit the short jumper. He will give Auburn an inside scoring threat and should help make the Tigers a threat in a wide-open SEC West race.

California: G Allen Crabbe. Cal has relied on its perimeter offense the past two seasons, but with both starting guards gone, the Golden Bears need an outside shooting threat. Enter Crabbe, a four-star recruit was is the No. 69 player in the class. Crabbe has good size (6-4) but needs to add bulk (he's listed at 165 pounds). Regardless, he has a nice outside stroke that Cal coach Mike Montgomery should put to good use. While Cal lost a ton of talent, the Pac-10 looks as if it will be down again, so a big season from Crabbe could mean good things for Cal.

Central Michigan: G Trey Zeigler. Zeigler, a four-star recruit from Mount Pleasant (Mich.) High who is the No. 28 player in the class, decided to stay home and play for his dad, Ernie, at Central Michigan. He is, by far, the most touted player to sign with a MAC school this season, and if he lives up to billing, he should be in the running for MAC player of the year honors. He has a high basketball IQ -- not surprising, considering his dad is a coach -- and was an accomplished scorer from the wing in high school. The MAC Western Division has been a wasteland of late, and Trey Zeigler's presence should provide a big boost of excitement -- not to mention talent -- for the Chippewas.

Detroit: G Ray McCallum. As with Zeigler, McCallum is a touted recruit who decided to stay home and play for his dad at a mid-major school. McCallum is a four-star recruit from Detroit Country Day who is the No. 43 player in the class nationally. Ray Sr. was an accomplished college point guard at Ball State, and the younger McCallum has a chance to do the same with the Titans. He is the most touted player to sign with a Horizon League school in a long time, maybe ever, as he was higher-ranked coming out of high school than former Butler star Gordon Hayward. His presence should boost Detroit's offense and put them in the mix for a second-place finish in the league behind Butler.

Florida State: G Ian Miller. If you saw the Seminoles play this past season, you saw a team that was tremendous on defense but mediocre on offense. Miller is a four-star recruit from Charlotte United Faith Christian Academy who is the No. 62 player in the class nationally. He's a quick point guard with a nice outside shot. He should upgrade the Seminoles' speed quotient in the backcourt, as well as add another offensive weapon for a team that sorely needs it.

Kansas: G Josh Selby. Selby, from Baltimore Lake Clifton, is the No. 1 ranked recruit nationally, and he is expected to replace Sherron Collins at point guard for the Jayhawks. Selby is more athletic than Collins and can hit the 3-pointer, nail the mid-range jumper and get to the rim. He's also a high-caliber defender. Kansas has some talented players returning, but Selby is key because he is, by far, the most dynamic guard on the roster.

Missouri: F Tony Mitchell. Coach Mike Anderson has a good thing going at Mizzou, and Mitchell is the latest example. Mitchell is a 6-8, 220-pounder from Dallas Pinkston who is the No. 12 player in the class. He's a great athlete, meaning he should be a great fit in Anderson's fast-paced attack. He's a big-time rebounder, which is what Mizzou needs after the loss of some key performers off last season's NCAA tourney team. He's also an above-average defender, and that really has to make Anderson happy. His arrival makes the Tigers a legit threat in the Big 12 next season.

Ohio State: C Jared Sullinger. Ohio State lost its best player when swingman Evan Turner turned pro a season early. Sullinger doesn't need to be the Buckeyes' go-to guy, but it wouldn't be a surprise if he averages a double-double as a freshman. Sullinger, from Columbus (Ohio) Northland, is the No. 5 player in the class, and he knows his way around the low post. Ohio State didn't have a legitimate low-post presence on offense this past season, but still got to the Sweet 16. Sullinger will be that low-post guy next season, and the Buckeyes look to have enough talent at the other spots to make a run at the Big Ten title.

Tennessee: F Tobias Harris. Harris is a five-star recruit from Glen Head (N.Y.) Half Hollow Hills West who is the No. 7 player in the class, and he is perhaps the best recruit in the Bruce Pearl era at Tennessee. Harris was a big-time prep scorer, and the Vols need an offensive presence in the low post with the departure of senior big man Wayne Chism. Harris is an excellent ballhandler for his size and also can hit the outside jumper; given his skill set, he should pose all sorts of matchup problems for opposing big men in the SEC.

Virginia: G K.T. Harrell. Virginia lost its best player when sophomore swingman Sylven Landesberg decided to go pro, meaning there's an open spot in the lineup for Harrell. He is a four-star prospect from Montgomery (Ala.) Brewbaker Tech Magnet who is the No. 30 player in the class. Harrell is physical and can score, and he will need to be effective if UVa is to continue the climb into the upper half of the ACC. His signing also was important for coach Tony Bennett, who is going into his second season. Bennett must prove he can get elite talent to sign with the Cavs, and Harrell's recruitment is a good sign of that. Previous coach Dave Leitao had trouble landing top-flight players.

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.

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